Maria Stuart (drama)

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Title: Maria Stuart
Genus: Tragedy in five acts
Original language: German
Author: Friedrich Schiller
Publishing year: 1800
Premiere: June 14, 1800
Place of premiere: Weimar Court Theater
  • Elizabeth , Queen of England
  • Mary Stuart , Queen of Scotland, prisoner in England
  • Robert Dudley , Earl of Leicester
  • Georg Talbot , Earl of Shrewsbury
  • Wilhelm Cecil , Baron von Burleigh, Grand Treasurer
  • Earl of Kent
  • Wilhelm Davison , State Secretary
  • Amias Paulet , knight, guardian of Mary
  • Mortimer , his nephew
  • Count Aubespine , French envoy
  • Count Bellievre , Ambassador Extraordinary of France
  • Okelly , Mortimer's friend
  • Drugeon Drury , second keeper of Mary
  • Melvil , their steward
  • Burgoyn , your doctor
  • Hanna Kennedy , her wet nurse
  • Margareta Kurl , your chambermaid
  • Sheriff of the county
  • Bodyguard officer
  • French and English gentlemen
  • Satellites
  • Servant of the Queen of England
  • Servants of the Queen of Scotland
Title page of the first print
Maria Stuart after a drawing by Arthur von Ramberg , Schiller-Galerie , 1859
Queen Elisabeth after a drawing by Arthur von Ramberg, 1859
Burleigh after a drawing by Arthur von Ramberg, 1859
Leicester after a drawing by Arthur von Ramberg, 1859
Mortimer after a drawing by Arthur von Ramberg, 1859

Maria Stuart is a classic drama by Friedrich Schiller . The tragedy in five acts premiered on June 14, 1800 in the Weimar Court Theater. A book was published in April 1801. Friederike Vohs played the title role.

First material research and plans by Schiller can be traced back to 1783, but it was not until 1799 that he finally took up the material.


In 1568, Mary Queen of Scots Queen of Scotland was driven out of the country on suspicion of aiding and abetting in the murder of her husband and fled to England. She hopes for protection from Elizabeth I , the Queen of England. But she must fear for her crown, since Maria herself has claims to it. Therefore Elisabeth has her captured and interned in a castle. The plot of the play begins 19 years later, three days before Mary's execution.

Bewitched by Maria Stuart's beauty, young men had repeatedly made attempts to free the Scottish woman. Young Mortimer also wants to save the prisoner. He only pretends to accept an order from the Queen to murder Stuart. He lets the Count of Leicester in on his plan, who himself loves Mary and is also Elisabeth's lover. In his dilemma, he arranges a meeting of the queens, at which Maria should touch the heart of her rival.

When this happens, however, Elisabeth tries to humiliate the pleading Mary even more deeply . She accuses her of hypocrisy and accuses her of sending all of her men to the afterlife. Maria also proudly accuses her of hypocrisy: Despite her exaggerated virtues (as the “virgin queen”), Elisabeth could not disguise her lower origins. Leicester's attempt at reconciliation has thus divided the two rivals even more irreconcilably.

A murder attempt on Elisabeth fails and Mortimer stabs himself. He cannot save Maria. To secure her throne, the queen wants to kill Maria. Since she does not want to assume the blame for Maria's death and does not want to risk the loss of her good reputation, she signs the judgment, but passes the warrant on to others. Mary Stuart is still executed. Elisabeth loses all of her advisors.


First elevator

Castle of Fotheringhay (Maria's Prison)
First appearance

Paulet breaks into the room of the prisoner Maria Stuart to confiscate her jewelry and letters, since in his opinion they open up the possibility of supporting conspirators against the rule of the Protestant Elizabeth. He countered Hanna Kennedy's protest against this disgraceful treatment of those who had fled by emphasizing the danger posed by the Queen, who also knew how to “throw the torch of civil war into the kingdom” from imprisonment (v. 65f.) And now for her sins (cf. V. 45, v. 62) should stand upright.

Second appearance

Maria appears and asks Paulet to give Elisabeth a letter in which she asks for a personal audience, as she can only open up to those of her "gender and rank" equals. In addition, she would like to draw up church support and her will, because after she was interrogated a month ago, she now expects a quick conviction or even execution.

Third appearance

Mortimer, Paulet's nephew, appears and conspicuously ignores the charming Maria. Paulet remarks to Mary: "Lady, your art is lost to her!" (V. 261)

Fourth appearance

In an interview with Kennedy, Maria reveals that today is the anniversary of the murder of her husband, in which she participated. Kennedy apologizes that her husband Darnley only became King because of Maria, but did not behave properly. She had only done the deed insane, seduced by Bothwell, whom she then acquitted in front of Parliament and married. England is not accusing them of this, but only for reasons of power politics.

Fifth appearance

Mortimer appears at Maria's and sends Kennedy away to keep watch at the door.

Sixth appearance

Mortimer confesses to Maria that he had become an ardent Catholic on his travels. The uncle of Mary, a bishop in France, accepted him into the Catholic Church, and here he also saw Mary's picture, got to know her misery and was convinced of her rightful claim to the throne of England, about which he then formed his own opinion have.

He also brings the news that Maria has been found guilty and that Elisabeth is only postponing the execution to give the impression that Parliament has been coerced into it. Maria can't believe that Elisabeth could desecrate the kingship like this, but Mortimer tries to persuade her to plan an escape. However, Maria referred him to Count Leicester, which was astonishing to Mortimer, as he was Mary's “bloodiest persecutor”. She gives him her picture at Leicester.

Seventh appearance

Burleigh appears to deliver the verdict. Maria does not recognize the court, since the noble judges are compromised by their behavior under Henry VIII. Also, under the last four governments, they have changed faith four times. In addition, the English and Scots were at odds for so long that they could not sit in court on one another as long as they were not united under one crown, namely under theirs. She was sentenced to death under a law created just for her, and the charge of conspiracy had not been proven. In addition, procedural errors were made, which Burleigh admits.

Ultimately, it becomes clear that Elizabeth's will to power led to Mary's condemnation, not the law.

Eighth appearance

Burleigh emphasizes the justice of the judgment, but also sees clearly that the whole world would suspect that Elizabeth was an arbitrary judgment, because “the sword with which the man adorns himself is hated in the hand of a woman. The world does not believe in the righteousness of women as soon as a woman becomes the victim ”.

Burleigh lets it be known that this is why an execution is critical and that Elisabeth would rather see Mary being slowly poisoned by Paulet. But Paulet makes it clear that he would not even tolerate the intrusion of murderers, let alone murder himself.

second elevator

Palace of Westminster
First appearance

Two lords discuss Elizabeth's plans to marry the heir to the French throne. The phrase “chaste fortress of beauty” is used here as a metaphor for Elisabeth, who so far has had a negative view of all marriage plans.

Second appearance

The French ambassadors want a marriage promise from the queen, but she is still waiting and laments that the people are forcing her to marry, but that she has no interest in submitting to a man and giving up her freedom.

When she still gives the French a ring, they ask for Mary's pardon, but Elisabeth refuses.

Third appearance

She has her advisors called. The Grand Treasurer Burleigh tries to persuade the Queen to order Mary's execution because Mary is a threat to the throne and freedom of England. For him, only the state of affairs counts . Talbot, on the other hand, advises mercy, since a woman's death sentence was not appropriate and the verdict was only a favor. It is not subject to English law; Elisabeth does not have to bow to the people's desire for Mary's execution. Mary was guilty, but one had to see this guilt before the situation (civil war in Scotland) and her upbringing (in France), while Elizabeth had matured in misery. Leicester warns against making a martyr out of Maria, who poses no danger. Rather, the sentence should be carried out as soon as a new plot goes out from her. Elisabeth listens to the arguments of her advisors, but does not commit herself.

Fourth appearance

Mortimer appears and tells the Queen about his journey, his role becomes more and more shady. Paulet hands Mary's request for an audience. Elisabeth is visibly touched by the letter and tears come to her. Burleigh advises against it, but Leicester and especially Talbot, who is more than pleased with this development, advise it. You can see that Burleigh has its own goals.

Fifth appearance

With Mortimer alone, Elisabeth once again describes the dilemma of being safer with Maria's death, but of being in a bad light before the world. Very indirectly and cautiously, she asks Mortimer for the murder of Maria.

Sixth appearance

In a monologue, Mortimer's real intention becomes obvious: He wants to save Maria and has only accepted the murder assignment against her to buy time. In truth, he hates Elisabeth and instead loves Maria.

Seventh appearance

Paulet speaks directly to Mortimer about the conversation with the Queen and tells him on the head that she wanted to persuade him to murder. But she will then blame him for the act. Then Leicester comes up and wants to speak to Mortimer.

Eighth appearance

Leicester reveals his affection for Maria to Mortimer. He tells him that he should have married her, but then left because he was hoping for Elisabeth, and Maria Darnley got married. The imminent marriage with the Dauphin now alienates Leicester and drives him back into Maria's arms, whom he now supposedly loves; At the same time, however, it becomes clear that in the event of liberation she promised him marriage. When Mortimer reveals his liberation plans to him, however, Leicester backs down enormously, because he thinks more of a diplomatic liberation. Mortimer tries to persuade him to take violent action with the help of his noble friends; he even thinks about kidnapping the queen.

Ninth appearance

In front of Elisabeth, Leicester complains about her marriage to the French. She presents this as a state of affairs, but she also wants to know whether Maria is really that beautiful. Leicester tries to persuade her to convince herself of this, believing that then the sentence can no longer be carried out (Burleigh: "The sentence can no longer be carried out when the Queen has approached her, for grace brings royal closeness . "). Elisabeth gives in to do Leicester, whom she has to disappoint by marrying the French, a favor. On a hunt in the park in front of Maria's prison, she wants to meet with Maria by chance.

third elevator

Park in front of Maria's prison
First and second appearance

Maria gets an unexpected exit (to be able to arrange the meeting). She enjoys the unexpected freedom in the park and enjoys nature. Paulet gives her the prospect that she will see Elisabeth in a moment; Mary then turns pale.

Third appearance

Talbot has hurried ahead and admonishes Maria to be submissive, but she has forgotten all good intentions and is full of hate.

Fourth appearance

At the meeting, Mary first gives in to the aggressive Elizabeth in everything and tries to placate her, but when Elizabeth comes to speak of her youthful sins, she can no longer hold back and accuses her of the illegality of her kingship. While Maria's position was even lower than Elisabeth's at the beginning of the conversation, she managed to gain the upper hand in the further course of the conversation. She outclasses Elisabeth by exposing her as immoral and inhuman. At the end, however, in addition to these points of contention, there are also sentences whose content is only insulting. Mary's fate is sealed.

Fifth appearance

Before Kennedy, Maria indicates that she has triumphed over Elisabeth and that she humiliated Elisabeth in front of Leicester.

Sixth appearance

Mortimer (who overheard the conversation of the queens) confesses his love to Maria and announces his plan of liberation, which includes the murder of his uncle. Maria is horrified and doesn't want to know anything about it. Armed men push into the garden.

Seventh appearance

Paulet brings Mortimer news of the murder of Elisabeth.

Eighth appearance

While Mortimer is still lost in thought and cannot believe what he has just heard, a co-conspirator named Okelly rushes in and informs Mortimer that one of the allies tried to murder Elisabeth, which failed. Mortimer doesn't want to flee.

Fourth elevator

First and second appearance

Aubespine, the French envoy, appears at court in Westminster to inquire about Elizabeth's welfare. There he learns that a "Franconian", a "Papist" is responsible. Burleigh prepares the order to execute Mary, breaks off diplomatic relations with France and expels Aubespine from England.

Third appearance

Burleigh and Leicester clash as Leicester accuses Burleigh of failing its policy on France, while Burleigh accuses Leicester of playing the wrong game with Elizabeth.

Fourth appearance

Leicester - now alone - realizes that Burleigh has seen through him. Mortimer brings him the news that an intercepted letter from Mary to him has been discovered and is now in Burleigh's hands. Mortimer tries to convince Leicester to make one last attempt to save Maria, but Leicester tries to save himself by handing Mortimer over to the guard. He does not betray him, but evades capture by committing suicide.

Queen's room
Fifth appearance

Burleigh shows Elizabeth, enraged by Mary's humiliation, Mary's letter to Leicester. She orders the death of Mary and wants to have Leicester thrown into the tower , but then becomes unsure whether this could not justify itself when it approaches.

Sixth appearance

Leicester appears unannounced and unauthorized. He rejects all allegations and presents himself as the actual savior of Elizabeth. In front of the Queen, Leicester can talk himself out of having made contact with Maria only to uncover her plans, which ultimately led to the unmasking of the liberation operation. He now votes for Maria's death himself and is commissioned by the suspicious Elisabeth to carry it out.

Seventh to ninth appearance

The people press for the death sentence, Elisabeth continues to fear for her reputation and sees herself incapable of the death sentence. Talbot also advises against it, because “what head will stand when this holy thing falls!”; Burleigh urges toughness.

Tenth appearance

In a monologue, Elisabeth reveals her frustration and falls into self-pity. For example, she is a slave to the people, has to face problems of legitimacy (has many political opponents in Europe, the Pope excommunicated her , etc.) and names Mary Stuart as the cause of all her evil. Remembering the devastating conversation and her hatred of Maria, she angrily signs the death sentence. Nevertheless, she is shocked by what she did.

Eleventh appearance

She hands over the verdict to her Secretary of State Davison and tries to make him responsible for what Davison fiercely opposes. In the end, nothing is clearly stated.

Twelfth appearance

Davison hesitates, but Burleigh snatches the certificate from him and quickly leaves.

Fifth elevator

First appearance

Kennedy tells Maria's steward Melvil about the last night Maria was brought to death. The knocking that she hears and interprets as a sign of liberation by Mortimer is the sound that is made when the scaffold is erected.

Second to fifth appearance

The servants discuss Mary's constitution and the preparations for the execution.

Sixth appearance

Mary distributes gifts to her servants and says goodbye.

Seventh appearance

When Maria Melvil reports on her lack of faith, the latter surprisingly reveals to her that she had been ordained priestly by the Pope. Mary confesses three sins at the Lord's Supper with Priest Melvil. First she confesses her hatred of Elisabeth and immediately forgives her. Then she comes to talk about her relationship with Leicester and regrets her feelings, but also forgives him. Finally, as the third party, she confesses her involvement in her husband's murder. Melvil still accuses her of organizing assassins and conspiracies against Elisabeth. Maria denies this and proves otherwise by stating that her scribes forged her dictated letters to lead them closer to execution.

Eighth appearance

Before Burleigh, Leicester and Paulet, she opens her last wishes and forgives Elisabeth.

Ninth appearance

With difficulty she can get from Burleigh that Kennedy accompanies her to the scaffold. Maria also accuses Leicester of betraying her tender love for him for the pride of Elizabeth. Her sentences seem to sound without anger or hatred, but are worded very cynically. She makes it clear that she is extremely disappointed in Leicester and wishes him: "Farewell, and if you can, live happily."

Tenth appearance

In a monologue he confesses to the outrage. In it you can also indirectly witness the execution. Maria goes to death composed and at peace with herself.


Eleventh and twelfth appearance

Elisabeth eagerly awaits news, but neither Burleigh nor Leicester appear.

Thirteenth appearance

Talbot appears and announces that he has been back to the Tower and learned of the false testimony of Maria's servant Kurl. When he noticed that he was responsible for Maria's death with his false testimony, he loudly roared through the window for the people. Elisabeth orders a new examination and pretends that there is “still time”, knowing full well that Maria is already dead.

Fourteenth appearance

Logically, she now claims that Davison did not order to pass on the signed death warrant.

Last appearance

Elisabeth has Davison thrown into the Tower and banishes Burleigh, making Talbot her personal advisor. This refuses. Then she calls to Leicester, but the latter has left for France.

Important persons

The Italian actress Adelaide Ristori (1822–1906) as Maria Stuart

As Queen of England, Elisabeth is in a problematic situation with not incontestable legitimation. If she lets Maria live, she could dispute her throne, if she agrees to the execution, she is afraid of being the cruel ruler. The dilemma of never being allowed to listen to her feelings, but always having to act as a public person, is the basic problem that Schiller presents with her. This is particularly emphasized by the fact that, as a woman, completely different role expectations are actually placed on her. The price of power is an unhealable rift through personality.

After she initiated the murder of her husband and the marriage of the murderer, Maria fled to England to live with her relative Elisabeth to avoid the vengeance of the Scottish people. Maria first initiates various attempts at liberation, all of which fail. With her execution inevitable, she finds herself in her fate and accepts her death as a just atonement for assisting in the murder of her husband. Schiller uses it to demonstrate the three stages of human development that he addresses in the 24th of the Aesthetic Letters:

“So three different moments or stages of development can be distinguished, which both the individual human being and the whole species must necessarily pass through in a certain order if they are to fulfill the whole range of its determinations. [...] Man in his physical state only suffers the power of nature; he gets rid of this power in the aesthetic state and he controls it in the moral state. "

Wilhelm Cecil, Baron von Burleigh , the grand treasurer and advisor to Elizabeth, consistently represents the interests of the state and its queen. The question of the lawfulness of the execution does not arise for him, for him only the reasons of state count. And before the danger of re-Catholicization of England and civil war, he pleads for the death penalty. He is a typical Machiavellian .

Georg Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury , is the Queen's second important advisor. It most closely represents Schiller's point of view. He is humane, considered and balanced in his point of view, and just. However, his influence remains small, since he has an eye on the balance between state interests and individual well-being. Elisabeth recognizes this: “I prefer the councilors who love my welfare” (2nd act / 3rd appearance).

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester , the Queen's third adviser, is a pure opportunist interested only in his own welfare. He keeps all options open and is just as ready to marry Elisabeth as Maria. He is most likely the type of noble who has been criticized by the bourgeois authors since the Enlightenment, especially in the bourgeois tragedy . He is scheming, there is no moral basis for his decisions.

Mortimer , the nephew of Maria's overseer Paulet, is the only fictional protagonist in the drama. He brings the so-called " exciting moment " into the drama, because with his appearance there is suddenly the option of liberation for Maria. He represents the Catholic sensual joy and thus contrasts Elisabeth. In his emotional way, far from intrigue or political calculation, he is also a figure in contrast to the hesitant, calculating Leicester. He sacrifices himself for his ideas and is always completely himself, the split between being and appearance does not exist for him.

Amias Paulet, knight and guardian of Maria , is an honest man. He is politically and religiously reliable and extremely correct. Paulet does not allow herself to be used to bring about the death of Mary in prison. In the presence of Maria Burleigh, he even points out that the "legal dispute [...] something improper took place" (915 and 985). Paulet guards Mary closely; but he also pleases her to forward the letter in which she asks Elisabeth for an interview to the correct address: "[...] what is compatible with my duty, I am happy to show" (1506f.). Maria knows how to appreciate this and at the hour of death she respectfully says goodbye to her guard.


For this work of Weimar Classicism , one must draw on Schiller's aesthetic writings for the interpretation, especially on the aesthetic education of man . The starting point of his thoughts is the disappointment at the turn of the French Revolution into the reign of terror . For Schiller, the question arose as to what the reason for this change was and how a sensible bourgeois state can replace the decadent feudal state without Europe "being thrown back into barbarism and servitude".

When asked about the occasion, he assumed that human beings were torn apart in sense and spirit, the loss of totality. Following Winckelmann , there was still harmony among the Greeks. With the fall of the Hellenic culture, this unity was broken and the parts only exist separately in the individuals. The state cannot change that either, since it is precisely based on this individuality. As a result, there is only one authority for the betterment of mankind through the regaining of harmony - art. Because the aesthetic sphere is that of mediation between reason and sensuality, elsewhere he calls the “play instinct” the mediator between “form instinct” and “material instinct”.

Schiller's proof is that most people are inaccessible to pure reason because they are “determined to act by sensations”. Therefore "the way to the head [...] must be opened through the heart".

The transition from one state to another takes place in an evolutionary manner: humans are formed aesthetically until society simply throws off the old shell. Conversely, however, it becomes clear that the purely politically oriented and acting individual cannot solve the problem: public people cannot develop their morals, but fail and become immoral if their actions are not authentic. And it can only be authentic if the individual has found his way back to his totality.

Elisabeth is the typical representative of inauthentic people. As a woman and a public person, she cannot find her totality; she is forced to live a life in appearance. For this she has to renounce any personal happiness. Although she speaks constantly of freedom, it is dependent on the will of the people, the demands of royalty and the role expectations that are placed on her as a female monarch.

Maria finds a self-determined life after she has thrown off all shackles up to the point of fear of death. But it can only preserve its morality and totality by withdrawing into inwardness. In the public sphere, in politics, it is subject to the old forces of noble court society. It has its own conception of the political man: the freedom of the individual must be brought into conformity with the needs of all according to reasonable principles.



Gaetano Donizetti's opera Maria Stuarda from 1835 is heavily based on Schiller's piece.

Film adaptations

Radio plays

  • 1927: Production: Süddeutsche Rundfunk AG - Director: Karl Köstlin
  • 1947: Only 3rd part: 3rd act: garden scene; Production: Radio Bremen - Director: Not known
    • Speaker: Not known


School expenses

  • Friedrich Schiller: Maria Stuart . Tragedy in five acts. With a comment by Wilhelm Große. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2004 (BasisBibliothek 54). ISBN 3-518-18853-4 .
  • Friedrich Schiller. Maria Stuart . A tragedy. Reclam XL. Text and context. Published by Wolf Dieter Hellberg. Philipp Reclam jun. Stuttgart 2014. ISBN 978-3-15-019227-6 .

Secondary literature

  • Franz-Josef Deiters : 'Grant me one more time / The earth's shine on my way to heaven'. The deprivation of the world II: Friedrich Schiller's Maria Stuart . In: Ders .: The de-worldization of the stage. On the mediology of the theater of the classical episteme . Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2015, pp. 139–171. ISBN 978-3-503-16517-9 .
  • Reinhard Leipert: Friedrich Schiller: Maria Stuart. Interpretations, Oldenbourg, Munich 2000, ISBN 978-3-637-01443-5 .
  • Karl S. Guthke : Maria Stuart. In: Schiller-Handbuch , ed. by Helmut Koopmann . 2nd, revised and updated edition. Stuttgart: Kröner 2011, pp. 438–466 [with references]. ISBN 978-3-534-24548-2 .
  • Chenxi Tang: Theatrical staging of the world order. International law, ceremonial studies and Schiller's 'Maria Stuart'. In: Yearbook of the German Schiller Society 55 (2011), pp. 142–168.
  • Philippe Wellnitz: The 'female nature' in 'Maria Stuart'. 'Woman is a frail being'. In: Schiller's nature, life, thinking and literary work , ed. v. Georg Braungart / Bernhard Greiner. Hamburg: Meiner Verlag, 2005, pp. 245-254.
  • Rüdiger Zymner: Friedrich Schiller. Dramas. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2002.

Web links

Commons : Maria Stuart  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Maria Stuart  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ History of the origin of Maria Stuart Friedrich Schiller. Retrieved May 13, 2020 .
  2. Classics of the television game | Maria Stuart (28.03.1986 ARD / BR). Retrieved June 29, 2020 .
  3. ^ Cornelia Köhler: Maria Stuart . Anne Roerkohl Documentary, Münster 2016, ISBN 978-3-942618-20-5 ( online ).